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A wounded AMD looks to release its first 12 core processor in Q1 2010

Many fondly recall the megahertz race -- the 90s phenomena in which Advanced Micro Devices and Intel raced to have the highest-clocked processor.  Over time, designers realized such a blind race was foolish, and that it was conceding far too much in efficiency and heat.  Now a similar race is heating up over the number of cores in a desktop processor, but only time will tell whether the race is the path of good design, or another blind charge.

Intel already has a four-core 45 nm desktop processor (Nehalem/i7) and a six-core server processor (Xeon) on the market.  It plans to roll out an eight-core server processor (Xeon) in Q4 2009. 

However, it may fall behind in the core race (though still presumably ahead in die-shrinks) if AMD is able to deliver on its planned release schedule.  AMD plans to release its six-core 45 nm processor, codenamed Istanbul in June.  The chip, like Intel's 6-core beast, is geared for the server market. 

But that's far from AMD's biggest news.  AMD has announced plans to beat Intel to 12 cores, releasing both 8 and 12 core processors, codenamed Magny-Cours, in Q1 2010.  It has also announced that it will in 2011 roll out its 32 nm Bulldozer core, which will feature up to 16 cores, running on the new Sandtiger architecture.  In short -- AMD plans to beat Intel in the core race.

Patrick Patla, an AMD vice president and general manager of its server unit states, "We are not ducking performance.  We want to do top-line performance with bottom-line efficiency."

Intel, meanwhile, remains confident that it can deliver equivalent performance with fewer cores via Hyper Threading.  Like NVIDIA, Intel is pursuing a slightly more monolithic design with fewer, but stronger processor cores.  Intel spokesman Nick Knupffer states, "We are confident we will stay far ahead on performance--and with fewer cores--do so in a more cost-effective, manufacturing-friendly manner.  This will be the first time in history where less is more."

Even if AMD can beat Intel in performance, it will still be in dire financial straits until it can translate that performance into sales.  AMD took another big loss in its recently reported fiscal quarter, just the latest in several years mostly in the red. 

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RE: Just as pointless as the mhz war
By nafhan on 4/23/2009 10:58:09 AM , Rating: 2
The MHz war stopped when there were diminishing returns. The current "processor cores per package" wars will stop when there is diminishing returns. At that point, we will move onto something else. Until then, there's no reason to stop!
That said, these chips will be targeted at markets where a large number of cores make sense (i.e. not your typical desktop).

By SublimeSimplicity on 4/23/2009 12:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
Correction the MHz war stopped when the marketing for more clock cycles hit diminishing returns.

As long as people (which there are many posting comments here) believe that a core for each thread is not a waste, the marketing returns for more cores will continue.

The reality is that because of memory latency, a large portion of the clock cycles go to waste because the core is stalled waiting on memory to be fetched. People don't realize this because Task Manager shows the CPU utilization at 100% even if 70% of that time was spent with the CPU stalled.

RE: Just as pointless as the mhz war
By omnicronx on 4/23/2009 12:58:55 PM , Rating: 2
The OP is 100% correct, anything over 8 cores right now is pretty much useless in the desktop world. It is just too hard to deal with latency and the cores will be constantly waiting to perform actions because of the memory bottleneck.

If anything we should be shifting back to the MHZ wars, or perhaps its time to go back to thinking about efficiency. They are also quickly approaching the wall of how much smaller we can make our CPU's using current technology. After 28nm, things will start to become interesting, that is for sure.

I would also like to point out that two cores is more than enough for 95% of the population. Heck, an in order processing Atom netbook is more than enough for many people (10+ year old tech), why on earth you think ramping up in cores is a good idea is beyond me, its just not cost efficient, especially for a company like AMD who have constantly been in the red for the past year or two.

RE: Just as pointless as the mhz war
By TomZ on 4/23/2009 1:53:26 PM , Rating: 3
The OP is 100% correct, anything over 8 cores right now is pretty much useless in the desktop world.
It's been posted a dozen times already - this is not a desktop processor; it's a server processor. Can we stop beating that dead horse?

By omnicronx on 4/23/2009 2:12:39 PM , Rating: 2
But that's not what this discussion is about. What happens in the server world very much so affects the desktop world.

The technology behind these chips will go into the next desktop variant, so discussion about how these cores will scale is very much so worth talking about.

By SublimeSimplicity on 4/23/2009 2:33:44 PM , Rating: 1
Oh, I was under the impression that servers used RAM just like desktop machines do. I didn't realize there was a completely different utopia form of DDR that has no latency that is only put in servers.

My apology for wasting everyone's time.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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